Among the boxes of Kleenex, the 10-cent spiral notebooks and multicolored dry-erase markers, among the smell of brand-new denim and the return of the PB&J, is the well-known stress (coupled with relief) that comes with the start of a new school year. For families formed through adoption, this stress is especially complicated. Helping your child’s teacher understand what language to use in the classroom, or ensuring your child’s sensory needs are met can often be frustrating. We’ve compiled advice to help you help your child succeed in the classroom.
Establish a line of communication with the teacher.
If you haven’t already, take the time to speak with your child’s teacher about your family’s background. Take this time to explain not just the language you use (for example, your son wasn’t “given up,” but placed), the role your son’s birth family has in his life, and your hopes for that attitude about adoption that the teacher should try to enforce. Make sure the teacher knows that you hope to continue open communication with her, especially should difficult things come up. This will also help normalize the situation and reinforce to your child that adoption is not a secret, but instead simply a fact of how he joined his family.
Provide the teacher with adoption storybooks to read to the class.
Donate some adoption books for to the class library, and explain why you like them and think they’re important. This will ensure the topic is treated in a natural and appropriate manner. Often, books with adoption storylines have something of value for every child, adopted or not. Here are a few of our favorite children's books on adoption.
Be aware of tricky assignments.
Many teachers assign projects like a family tree in order to help children explore their ancestry. These assignments can sometimes be difficult for adopted children, as their family structure looks a little different, and they may not know much about their birth family. If your child's teacher plans on covering this topic, encourage her to include options for these assignments that are more inclusive. Options where the birth family represents roots to the tree work well.
Prepare your child.
We can’t control what others will say or do, which is something that, as parents, we often forget. Your child’s teacher may be completely understanding and cooperative, but that may not stop another student from making a comment about how your child “wasn’t wanted” or “should look more like his family.” Have a conversation with your child about things she might hear from other students, and why those students might have that attitude. Help your child with kid-friendly ways to explain her story to other students.
Educate the educators.
If your child's school would like to learn more about how to address adoption-related topics in their curriculum, encourage them to contact The Cradle at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 733-3225. We are happy to help.